Saturday, May 31, 2014

home made sun dried tomato paste and yummy simple crostini with it

I have been sun drying tomatoes of all types since ages. Not only tomatoes actually, I love the sun dried fenugreek leaves and mint leaves too and have some batches of sun dried mulberries, peaches and apricots as well. I keep adding them to my salads and granola bars now and then and sometimes they end up in my smoothies too. But the most valued sun dried vegetable is tomato for me as I love the way it enriches the tomato flavour in just about anything I use it with. You will find procedure to sundry tomatoes and recipe ideas here on my post.

Sun dried tomato paste is a useful condiment too. It stays well like a pickle and can be put into use quickly and conveniently. I smear it on toast and crostinis sometimes. I add it to my potato salads and make a dressing for chicken salads some other times. I have had it smeared on my cheese omelet too and even ragi ki roti. Believe me, the sun dried tomato paste smeared on ragi ki roti tasted yummy when made into a roll with some green salad and boiled eggs. You would love this sun dried tomato paste and curry leaves stir fried mutton liver too.

But the most loved use of the sun dried tomato paste this season was this crostini made with the skillet breads, very lightly toasted, smeared with the sun dried tomato paste and topped with roughly minced fresh home made paneer, sliced olives and fresh home grown rucola leaves. The combination is just divine and have been repeated many many times for a quick dinner with a bowl of salad or for a quick evening snack.

recipe of the sun dried tomato paste

(makes a 250 ml jar full)
sun dried tomatoes (without oil) 120 gm
balsamic vinegar 80 ml
water 40 ml
garlic cloves 50 gm
capers 2 tbsp or about 30 gm (optional)
pickled jalapenos 2 tbsp (optional, I used because I had some)
red chilly flakes 1 tbsp
fresh oregano 3 tbsp
fresh basil about 20 leaves
extra virgin olive oil 100 ml (or more if you want oil floating over the jar)
salt 40 gm


Soak the sun dried tomatoes in balsamic vinegar and water overnight.

Blend it with all the other ingredients and keep in a glass or ceramic jar. It stay well at room temperature for about a month. For about a year if refrigerated.

If using oil packed sun dried tomatoes, skip using extra virgin olive oil.

Adjust seasoning after tasting the paste. You might want to add a dash of sugar if your tomatoes were too sour to start with.

The crostini can be made using any bread you have at home. Or just make a sandwich with the same filling. Rucola leaves taste really great with the tartness of this sun dried tomato paste.

Or just enjoy a chickpeas salad with sun dried tomatoes dressing and some feta or good old paneer.

To make the 'sun dried tomato paste dressing' for this salad, just mix 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil with 1 tbsp of this tomato paste and whip till smooth. No salt or seasoning is required as the paste has enough and the boiled chickpeas also have salt.

Add small cubes of paneer and mix, add chickpeas (soaked overnight and pressure cooked), halved cherry tomatoes, halved black grapes and leaves of rucola. You can replace these with other fruits or salad greens of your choice but the paneer and chickpeas soak up the sun dried paste dressing really well.

Sun dried tomato paste is a versatile condiment you would realise. Try it smeared on idli sometime and see what I mean.

Monday, May 26, 2014

piri piri sauce or peri peri sauce recipe and grilled chicken wings with piri piri sauce

peri peri sauce recipe

Piri piri sauce or peri peri sauce is a hot chilly sauce of Portuguese-African origin.The sauce uses African bird's eye chillies and Portuguese probably started making this sauce with the small bird's eye chillies in colonial times. Portuguese had colonies in Africa and they made great use of the local chillies. These bird's eye chillies are grown along the western coast of India as well and that is because the Portuguese brought this bird's eye chilly to Cochin and Goa. We find this chilly growing around Goa a lot, we brought some dry bird's eye chillies from there last time and grew seedlings. The chillies are quite hot and very flavourful. In Africa, the same chilly is called piri piri and the sauce made with these is spicy and hot and yet packed with flavours of chilly. Chicken grilled with piri piri sauce is a popular recipe.

piri piri chicken recipe

Piri piri sauce or peri peri sauce as it is pronounced sometimes, was made popular worldwide by Nando's and I am sure people like it with different heat levels in different parts of the world. I have even tasted chicken piri piri with a hint of sweetness and that was also great. One can always adjust the heat in this sauce to one's liking and use more types of chillies to get a rich chilly flavour. When Kashmiri chillies, bird's eye chillies, paprika and red bell peppers are used together you get a nice chilly flavour with a milder heat level. Most people find this kind of milder piri piri sauce better as it doesn't set the palate on fire. Those who like it hot, make it just with the bird's eye chillies. So choose your chillies to taste. I like using as many fresh red chilly varieties as I can get and always love this piri piri sauce with a generous garlic flavours.

Recently I harvested a few red bell peppers, a few red jalapenos and habanero peppers from my kitchen garden. The chilly plants don't bear many fruits in my garden somehow so only 2-3 peppers of each variety were there. The bird's eye chilly plant keeps giving me about a dozen chillies every week so I planned to make the piri piri sauce with all of them mixed. Oregano is from the garden as well.

piri piri sauce ingredients

 The piri piri sauce recipe is simple, but you need the most flavourful chillies you can get your hands on. Bird's eye chilly is a must if you like it hot, else make it with a mix of red bell peppers and any mildly hot red chilly peppers available to you. I like using a yellow bell pepper in the mix to provide a nice vibrant colour to the sauce, bell peppers both red and yellow, basically enhance the colour and provide body to the sauce. And you know chilly peppers are one of the best anti inflammatory foods and full of antioxidants.

Oregano is essential for this sauce and please don't replace it with any other herb. But if you want to use other herbs, go for mixed Italian herbs for a richer flavour.

(recipe adapted from here)
red and yellow bell peppers 200 gm
bird's eye chillies 20 nos. (or 20-25 gm)
other mixed fresh red chilly peppers 4-5 (or 30-40 gm)
peeled garlic cloves 2 dozen (or 80 gm)
oregano leaves 2-3 tbsp
salt 2 tbsp
paprika powder 2 tbsp
virgin olive oil 1/4 cup
red wine vinegar (or white vinegar) 1/4 cup


Chop the garlic roughly and all the chillies in large chunks. Pour the olive oil in a pan and add chopped garlic to it. Place it on the stove and wait till the garlic starts sizzling.

Add the chopped bell peppers and chilly peppers together, add salt and stir well. Cook covered for 5 minutes. Add paprika powder, mix well and cook for a couple of minutes. Take the mixture off the heat and add the oregano leaves.

piri piri sauce recipe

 Mix it well and let the mixture cool down.

piri piri sauce recipe

Now transfer the contents in a blender jar and blend till smooth. Add the vinegar while blending and let it make a smooth sauce.

Transfer to a sterilised glass jar and close the lid. The sauce keeps well for a couple of weeks at room temperature and for a year when refrigerated.

piri piri sauce

I made chicken wings grilled with piri piri sauce and threw in a few fresh baby corns as well.

Recipe of chicken wings grilled with piri piri sauce 

(2-4 servings)
chicken wings 10
water 1.5 cups
salt 1/2 tsp
piri piri sauce 1 heaped tbsp or to taste
olive oil 2 tsp


Simmer the chicken wings in a stock pot with the water and salt for a good 40 minutes. Add a little more water if required but the water should reduce to half a cup in the end.

Take out the chicken wings and dissolve the piri piri sauce and olive oil in the remaining chicken stock left in the pot. Reduce it till it makes a sauce of coating consistency.

Mix the chicken wings and let the sauce coat it all over. Spread all the chicken wings on a baking dish and bake at 200 C for 10 minutes or till the surface becomes a bit crisp.

I added a few baby corns to the same sauce and grilled along with the chicken wings. It always makes a nice vegetarian version of piri piri grill.

piri piri chicken

We love fish steaks grilled with piri piri sauce and potato or sweet potato wedges with piri piri sauce as well. Paneer batons also take the flavours well when grilled with piri piri sauce.

These chicken wings grilled with piri piri sauce was enjoyed with batons of cucumber on the side and some chilled beer last weekend. It can be a great appetiser or a main course depending on how you want to enjoy it.

Keeping some piri piri sauce in your fridge is a great idea if you want quick meals at the end of the day. Some chicken breast along with a few seasonal vegetables like lotus stem or even coclocasia would taste great with this sauce.

piri piri chicken

 Piri piri sauce will be a favourite if you love chilly peppers. Make it and let me know if you like. I am loving some piri piri in the peak summer heat right now.

Trust me it wont be as hot as you think, serve some cooling kind of side dishes with it if you have a doubt and see how the grilled chicken flies off the platter.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

mushrooms stir fry with garlic chives with a hint of balsamic vinegar, and finding some garlic chive blooms

Mushrooms stir fry with garlic chives. With hints of red chilly and balsamic vinegar.

Mushrooms are packed with minerals and some vitamins and I like using them when they are in season. We do get button mushrooms throughout the year but the best ones come in the cooler months and I keep adding them to my stews and soups all the time. Sometimes a stir fried mushrooms with spring onion or Garlic chives is a good accompaniment to my egg meals.

Yes I am lazy to cook my lunch mostly as now I am alone at lunch time. A plate full of wilted spinach, a large serving of stir fried green beans or any such quick vegetable with boiled or fried eggs becomes a convenient yet tasty meal. This one I had straight out of the frying pan.

Garlic chives we don't get easily around the neighborhood markets and whenever I get a large bunch, I make sure I freeze the leftovers. Sometimes the chives from the garden are frozen when I am not in a mood to use them. I used the frozen garlic chives directly sprinkled into the pan this time and the mushrooms got a new life. Frozen chives work well and a small ziplock bag of these is always there in my freezer.

On a recent visit to a beautiful hill resort Te Aroha, where I am working with the F&B team right now, I saw these beautiful blooms of garlic chives. The ones in my garden rarely bloom in Delhi climate so I was overwhelmed seeing these beauties. I had to use them in the food of course.

Naturally grown herbs without any pesticides are great addition to simple salads to make them a notch up. both on the looks and taste scale. The blooms of garlic chives are edible too and I made a beautiful salad with locally grown potatoes and thin slices of cauliflowers and broccoli. This salad was inspired by Chef Maurizio's green beans salad. I keep making this salad in various forms and it keeps impressing me each time. Look at this salad without any fresh greens but a generous garnish of tiny garlic chive flowers.

When the blooms are not available, I make do with my home grown chives. Fresh or frozen, they make beautifully fragrant stir fries and egg scrambles. Here is the recipe of balsamic infused mushrooms with garlic chives.

(one or two servings depending of how it is served)

button mushrooms 150 gm (sliced or chopped as you like)
garlic 4-5 cloves (chopped finely)
dry red chillies 2
garlic chives 70-80 gm or chopped 3/4 cup
salt to taste
balsamic vinegar 1 tbsp (optional)
Olive oil 2 tsp


Heat the oil in a pan and tip in the dry red chillies broken. Add the chopped garlic and fry till fragrant.

Now add the chopped mushrooms and salt, stir fry till the mushrooms wilt.

Add the garlic chives and toss some more so the chives just wilt. Take off the heat and serve hot with any meal you like. This mushrooms and garlic chives stir fry makes a nice pizza topping or a good accompaniment to a grilled chicken kind of meal.

You can use the greens of the regular garlic too for this recipe and the flavours will be absolutely yummy. After all garlic and mushrooms make a nice combination anyway.

Friday, May 16, 2014

my favourite kung pao prawns and more yummy Chinese food at The China Kitchen

I keep cooking my simple versions of Kung Pao Prawns quite frequently. Sometimes I make variations and add some shredded chicken or boiled eggs to the same stir fry. I have posted one Kung Pao style prawns stir fry with boiled pearl barley which is a yummy one dish meal. I love the way fried cashew and red chillies compliment Oriental flavours in this kind of stir fry.

Kung pao style stir fry can be made to be served as a starter or as a main course with necessary changes in seasoning if required. I like it without a clinging sauce, generous hint of ginger and star anise and a little hot and smoky. Fried dry red chilly do the job well to bring a hint of heat and smokiness.

With added pearl barley this version of kung pao prawns is one of my favourite meals.

We recently had a yummy Kung Pao prawns at The China Kitchen, Hyatt Regency here in Delhi. We were there to get a taste of the brand new menu launch they did recently and I must say we had a blast.

This kung pao prawns at The China Kitchen was a saucy version of Kung pao prawns with roasted peanuts and cashew. Plump prawns and rings of spring onion this could be my entire meal of the day.

But we tasted and ate a lot of good food that day.

I loved the Buckwheat noodles tossed with red chilly flakes and garlic flakes. The tofu and cheese stuffed puff pastry was nicely done, good looking and decadent.

An interesting lotus stem fritters was ordered and I found it really good. Two broad oval slices of lotus stem sandwiched a filling of mashed potatoes and some vegetables and deep fried like tempura, it can be a nice party appetiser.

Arvind liked the smoked chicken salad with hot and sour glaze. It was really well done but I would have liked it a little bit moist. I wont mind tossing this salad up with loads of greens for a meal. And there were enough green salads on the menu.

In the main course we both loved the Pomfret papillote, done in aluminium foil and served on a sizzler plate. Very well done I must say. I liked the crusty skin of pomfret though it must have been grilled before steaming it in the foil coverage. The result was good, flaky fish with crusty skin with a flavourful sauce.

A vegetables stir fry with snow peas, water chestnuts, asparagus and broccoli etc was really nice too. Very subtle flavours and the right amount of garlic for us. All accompanied with a small serving of udon noodles. All washed down with sips of Jasmine tea.

 A banana and chocolate spring roll was recommended for desserts. It came with a vanilla sauce. Nice flavours and textures but this was not my kind of dessert.

The lime sorbet was more my kinda dessert. I am not too 'frozen dessert' types but citrus sorbets are different. Loved it absolutely.

I am making a citrus sorbet very soon. This is the time for it. Long time I made any frozen desserts. I am doing it one of these days for sure. And will click pictures too so it comes here on the blog.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

summer coolers : cooling foods and drinks for the harsh Indian summers

We have been surviving on cooling foods as Indian summers don't leave you with an option. You eat one heavy meal in a week and rely on light and cooling kinda food the rest of the days. This is the time I don't care about a dense protein portion in each meal, the body doesn't need it much if I am not working out. And it has been a bit hectic and workout routine a bit irregular and less intense if that is the correct way to put it. I have been gorging on curd rice and it's numerous variations for at least one meal everyday. A large kettle of green tea is brewed along with any fresh herb from the garden, lemon balm or mint or the desi (wild) rose petals, sometimes lemongrass or even peppermint. I pour myself a glass of this tea, add ice cubes and keep sipping. Sometimes a small tidbit to go with it.

This lemon balm green tea has a calming effect when I am overworked.. I talked about this fennel and almond whole wheat biscotti earlier, this is great stuff.

iced tea
This cooling dessert sometimes becomes our dinner. We have been eating mangoes for dinner since childhood, just the mangoes and nothing else as there used to be loads of mangoes to be devoured and we all just loved them. We used to have aam malai, aam ras (pulped mangoes, especially the desi variety) or just sliced mangoes. I have been making mango sticky rice every season too but this dessert meal is even more easy. Mango kulfi falooda when I feel fancy.

The mango, coconut milk, subza seeds and coconut flakes make a nice filling dessert meal, add as much of each ingredient as you like and have it chilled.

mango dessert with coconut milk
Check out the various mango salads with mint, phalsa berries and seeds and nuts posted on this blog in the past. Those are my summer staples.

Subza is basil seeds and is very cooling for the system.

I have been making melon smoothies a lot last year. This musk melon smoothie with lime juice soaked subza seeds is such a refreshing cooling drink for summers. Just blend Muskmelon cubes without any added liquids and pour into glasses, top with a generous tbsp of soaked subza seeds and enjoy.

musk melon smoothie with soaked subza
Watermelon is a boon for summers. This watermelon spritzer is a sip of heaven. I make the watermelon and feta salad quite frequently with home made feta. This time I scooped out the feta using a melon baller and infused it with a sugar macerated (add sugar and herb and mix in mortar and pestle) paste of basil and peppermint. I made it about a dozen times already this summer. That good.

watermelon feta salad
My pineapple kanji has been a favourite with friends and family for some years now.

pineapple kanji
 An iced glass of this kanji is healthy and cooling, supportive to gut flora as well.

pineapple kanji
 Seasonal fruit in summer are nature's way of letting us know that we are blessed. The best coolers are the seasonal fruits. Peaches are one of summer favourites.

 I make this yummy smoothie with sweet lime slices, peach slices and a tbsp of orange marmalade added to the blender. A little sweet lime or orange juice is added if required and the smoothie is a store house of antioxidants.

peach and sweet lime smoothie
 Lunch in a hot summer day should be either curd rice, panta bhat or a nice salad for me. Here is the current favourite salad with beans, potatoes, rucola from the garden and shavings of Parmesan.

beans salad with rucola and parmesan
 All seasonal fruits make it easy to rustle up a fruity meal with minimal effort. I love papaya, oranges and the loquat that are so bountiful in summers.

Mulberries grow around my home in abundance and we get to eat them a lot.

I make a smoothie with the fresh mulberries, yogurt and a tbsp pf mulberry preserve added to it. Adding a preserve multiplies the flavours of the smoothie a lot.

mulberry smoothie
 Some fruits we get only in dehydrated form. Kokum is one of them but it makes yummy sweet or savoury drink with a tang.This one is just kokum soaked water with a pinch of soda bicarb and a dash of chaat masala. Serve chilled and see how this drink makes everyone happy. I had it once at a restaurant and have been making it since then. Kokum soda can be made with bottles soda as well. Soak the kokum overnight, use the coloured water to make the drink with added bottled soda.

kokum soda
Can we forget the good old buttermilk? This is my go to drink that brings such a calmness with a meal or just after it. This is almost an everyday indulgence for me. Buttermilk with mint powder.

I used home made mint powder. To make mint powder at home you can dry the mint leaves in shade (never in sun or oven as the essential oils will evaporate and mint powder will be a waste) till it gets crumbly. I normally make a loose bunch and hang it in a shady place in the kitchen. The leaves can either be crushed by hand or powdered in food processor. Keep in air tight container.

Last but not the least, this curd 'rice' is my savior. I make this cur 'rice' with barley groats, buckwheat groats, amaranth seeds, rolled oats or the different varieties of rice that we use. More about this curd rice later but this barley curd rice is a great cooling recipe for summer months.

barley curd rice
Check barley congee that has been a favourite as a chilled or cold savoury drink.

Tell me what summer coolers you rely upon. There are plenty of seasonal fruits one can use and phalsa is one of those yummy berries that make nice phalse ka sharbat. Jamun is another fruit that we love and make a similar sharbat with it. Bael ka sharbat, Aam panna, Sattu and sattu ka sharbat and list goes on.

Share you summer coolers recipes as I am sure there are plenty of foods that we all enjoy in different parts of world. I want to know more.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

baking breads : skillet bread | whole wheat and sorghum bread baked in a skillet

skillet bread
Whole meal breads have always been the breads at my home. Baking them in the skillet has been not so common but I keep doing it for the sake of experimentation and whenever I needed a smaller bread. So skillet breads can be baked in an oven as well as on stove top. They look almost the same and taste almost the same. The best thing I see in skillet breads baked on stove top is that they develop a nice crust, better than the same bread in the oven.

English muffins are classic skillet breads and I make buckwheat flour English muffins as well, both cooked on stove top, using skillets of different sizes. Breads with oatmeal, breads with ragi and other whole meals have also been baked in skillets as and when required. I started baking such small breads with sourdough when I was a teenager and had learnt to bake small breads in pressure cooker pans. Yes, pressure cooker pans are good for baking cakes and breads and I started my journey towards baking with them as we didn't have regular electricity supply back then and for small experiments I used an old pressure cooker pan so my mom wouldn't be mad at me. What I want to convey is, use a sturdy, thick base utensil that can be covered nicely for this skillet bread if you don't have a cast iron skillet like this. I am suggesting alternative skillets for this bread because many of you asked me about the skillet after seeing this skillet bread on my fb page.

I have 2 of these skillets in different sizes and this time baked breads in both of them together.

skillet breads
I would like to put in a word of caution here, I have burnt these skillet bread quite often as I get busy with something or the other and loose track of time while baking these. Since there is no timer on gas stove so it is easy to forget and you are alarmed only when the burning base of skillet bread starts spreading the smell across the house. But even if this happens, you can retrieve the bread by slicing off the base crust. The remaining bread stays fine.

I had this bread with my leek frittata that I made the other day, with a light smear of butter. The bread is dense due to smaller air pockets but there are more air pockets than normal white flour breads so the softness of the bread is good, if not comparable to white breads. On the scale of flavours these whole meal breads beat the white breads hands down.

Believe me when I say the bread is very easy to make. Use instant active dry yeast and the process becomes quick. These 2 breads took total an hour or so starting from scratch but that is because the room temperature is about 32-35 C around this time. In cooler climes the rising of the dough may take a bit more time but the baking time will be the same, about 20 minutes for a 220 gm ball of dough.

(you can add the ingredients by rough estimate too, wont alter the results much)
whole wheat flour 225 gm
sorghum flour 100 gm
dry instant yeast 1.5 tsp
salt 1/2 tsp
sugar 1 tbsp
water as required


Add the salt and sugar to 1/2 cup lukewarm water, dissolve. Add the yeast and let it dissolve on it's own for a couple of minutes. This step is more of a play for me as I love watching the yeast granules dancing around and multiplying.

Add 2-3 tbsp of whole wheat flour to this and whisk using a wire whisk till the batter looks stringy and resists whisking movements.

Now add the remaining flours, knead a soft dough adding a little more water if required. Knead well for about 5-6 minutes, stretching the dough with each kneading movement. Keep the dough covered for 30 minutes or till it becomes doubled in volume.

Punch the dough and knead one more time briefly, divide into suitable sized balls** and place them over a flour dusted kitchen towel. Cover with another towel and let them rise again for about 20 minutes or till they rise again.

** By suitable sized balls I mean that the small bread should be about 1/3rd the size of your skillet and not too rounded. Making a little flattish breads works if the skillet edges are not too high. So adjust the dimensions of you ball of dough accordingly.

skillet bread
You can see the top of my skillet breads are not as brown as the sides. This is because it touched the lid while it rose during baking. That is the reason you need to make flatter breads while using skillets like these. If the skillet is deeper you can go ahead and make round breads or bread rolls.

Next step will be to heat the skillets over medium flame for a couple of minutes, place the risen dough balls inside the skillet and cover with a well fitting lid. These skillets don't come with lids so I used 4 steel quarter plates that fit over the skillet. Using 4 plates means a thicker lid that disperses heat well to make the skillet behave like a mini oven. Let the bread bake for about 20 minutes on very low flame.

Smear the bread with ghee or melted butter so the crust doesn't dry out. These breads in the picture are not smeared with any ghee and they were fine. Cool on a wire rack or anything perforated. Slice after they are cooled.

Enjoy the skillet bread as you wish. They made yummy bruschetta and taste great when toasted.You can make this olives and rucola oatmeal bread in skillet as well. You will be hooked to skillet breads after you bake one. That's a promise.

And while I am at whole meal and whole wheat baking, let me tell you whole wheat makes wonderfully tasty dry snacks as well. I tasted one whole wheat biscotti with almonds and fennel and it was too good. It really was.

Suhasini Sood who runs Sucré, a bakery that makes excellent stuff one can order. I found the prices reasonable and most important fact is that they customise a cake or cookie or biscotti for you. Suhasisni bakes the same biscotti with white flour too but she sent me some whole wheat fennel and almond biscotti as I wanted those. These were very thinly cut, perfectly baked and flavours that linger long after you have had them. Very addictive taste I must add.

Suhasini delivers all around Delhi NCR and can be contacted at her fb page here or call her at +91-9958577993

Coming back to the whole wheat and sorghum skillet bread. Please do share your experience with baking this skillet bread on stove top. I know many of you were waiting for the recipe, please read the instructions carefully, baking the bread will be easier that way. And do let me know how it came out. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

paneer curry in muhammara sauce : a roasted bell pepper curry sauce with flavours of muhammara

Paneer curries are Indian staples especially in vegetarian homes. And muhammara is one flavourful dip from mediterranian region that keeps calling my name. Red bell peppers and walnuts are some of my most favourite ingredients and I can use them in many variations.

Paneer is a good protein source for everyday meals and can be made at home easily. One of the easiest fresh cheeses that can be made at home actually. I make my own fresh paneer whenever required but since we eat it so frequently and it is available so easily I sometimes get it from Mother Dairy booth for convenience. This time I did just that as I had little time left for cooking dinner and a roasted bell pepper mix that I made during winters was ready in the freezer. This curry got ready in 10 minutes and we both loved it with a multigrain roti on the side.

The bell peppers are not very common in my kitchen as Arvind is intolerant to their smell, sometimes when I roast them in advance and mix really good flavourful tomatoes with them, he can have them. We have been getting really good bell peppers this winter and they were cheap too, that means they are being grown locally. I use them a lot for muhammara as Arvind can have that without a problem, roasting the bell peppers changes the aroma a bit and that is useful in my situation. I make my soups and dips and even curries using roasted red or yellow bell peppers now. Green ones are stronger smelling and he can't have them in any form. I don't mind using just the coloured ones, good for me actually. More Carotenoids, more antioxidants, more anti inflammatory properties.

Muhammara is made using either pan roasted or oven roasted bell peppers , I often roast them over gas flame too as it is quicker than the other methods. This time I had roasted them over gas flame and had froze them for later use.

I tweaked the traditional muhammara recipe a little bit to make this curry, more because I wanted a curry that does not need much cooking. Yes I just dry roasted a few whole spices, ground them coarse along with walnuts and then pulped the roasted red bell peppers and tomatoes along with these to make the base for the curry. This curry base keeps well in the fridge or freezer, just add paneer cubes or strips and microwave till thoroughly heated, the curry is ready to eat.

(serves 3-4)
roasted (in oven or on gas flame) red bell peppers 2
roasted tomato 1 large ripe heirloom tomato
3-4 slices of onion roasted or grilles over flame
fat cloves of garlic roasted 4-5
whole coriander seeds 2 tsp
whole cumin seeds 1 tsp
whole dry red chillies 3-4 or to taste
walnuts 1/2 cup
minced ginger 1 tsp
salt to taste
salt to taste
paneer cut into strips 200 gm
strips of fresh bell peppers, ginger julienne and coriander greens for garnish


Dry roast the coriander seeds for a minute on medium flame and keep aside. Dry roast the cumin in the same pan till aromatic and nicely browned (but not burned) and keep it along with the coriander. Now dry roast the broken dry red chillies too for just a few seconds, mix with the cumin coriander, cool down a bit and transfer to the grinder. Make a coarse powder. Add the walnuts and make a coarse powder of all these.

Peel the charred skin off the bell peppers tomato and garlic, chop roughly along with the roasted onion rings. Now add the roasted vegetables in a blender together and make a smooth puree. Mix the salt and roasted powdered spices and walnuts, blend till smooth. Adjust seasoning. This paste can be used immediately or can be frozen for about 2 months or refrigerated for 3-4 days.

Add paneer strips to the above puree that is a spiced muhammara and microwave till the curry is well heated. The heating can be done in a pan, adding a little water of required.

Serve hot with naan or roti, garnished with strips of bell peppers and coriander greens. Add ginger julienne liberally. Add sliced green chillies if you want some heat.

This curry is a convenient and rich looking curry that uses no cooking fat. All the fat in the curry is from walnuts and paneer and we just love the way it tastes. I make it a meal by itself as I skip the breads most of the times but otherwise too you would want to eat more of the curry and less of the breads with this one. Bursting with flavours I would say.

The spiced muhammara can be used as a dip if required. You can add cooked pasta to the sauce or can use it to make sandwiches or pita burgers, options are many and the recipe is simple.

Add water to thin the sauce and simmer to make a flavourful soup served with a crusty garlic bread. You have a nice base for a curry, a dip or a soup at your disposal now.